Author Archives: mike

Shameful

“5-minute delay crucial in Tech shooting”

“Police said he unleashed 170 rounds on the classrooms of Norris Hall during a nine-minute rampage. Thirty people were killed in the building; more were wounded.

During those shooting, police spent three minutes rushing to the building and then about five minutes breaking through the building’s doors, which Seung-Hui Cho had chained.

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The five minutes police spent breaking into the building proved to be crucial as Cho moved through Norris Hall unimpeded.

Authorities eventually blew their way into the building, and as they began to rush toward the gunfire on the second floor, Cho put a bullet through his head and died, surrounded by his victims.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller praised the officers’ response time, noting that had police simply rushed into the building without a plan, many would have likely died right along with the staff and students. She said officers needed to assemble the proper team, clear the area and then break through the doors.” (Emphasis mine.)

Oh, I’m sorry. I thought that was your JOB. God forbid that officers actually put their lives on the line so that others might live. I guess they’re too busy busting poker games and shooting 92 year olds during drug raids. Is that a cheap shot? Yes. But I’m pretty damn pissed off at this notion that police need to wait until it’s “safe” before entering a situation.

As for the fact that he chained the doors shut, there are ways of getting chained doors open. From the same article:

Tom Corrigan, former member of a terrorism task force and a retired New York City detective, said five minutes seems like a long time when gunfire is being heard, but he added it’s tough to second-guess officers in such a chaotic situation.

“I would have liked to have seen them bust down the door, smash windows, go around to another door, do everything to get inside fast,” he said. “But it’s a tough call because these officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis and I am sure they did the best they could.”

Al Baker, a former 25-year veteran in the New York Police Department, echoed that sentiment, but said sometimes officers have to do whatever is necessary to enter a building — whether it’s throwing a rock through a window or driving a car through the door. He said the crucial issue is ensuring that officers have the proper training and equipment.

And that’s the crux of the matter. These officers didn’t have the training or mindset to respond to this type of a situation. You take the first four officers that arrive on scene and go in. Period. No ifs ands or buts. It’s your JOB. When you put on the badge and strapped on a sidearm, you supposedly took on a responsibility to protect those you serve. Unfortunately, even in a post-Columbine world, it seems some cops still don’t take that responsibility seriously.

Just remember this the next time someone says that the proper response to a threat is to call the police and wait. They do a great job of investigating bodies, but they’re a little weak on the response side, unless the threat is willing to politely wait for 8 minutes.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too upset. It is an improvement, after all. At least they didn’t wait 40 minutes before “clearing” the building.

“That Was the Desk I Chose to Die Under”

Read this compilation of first person accounts of the VT shooting from the Post. Then try and tell me that, with very few exceptions, we have a severe cultural problem when it comes to self defense in America.

I should be clear: I am in no way trying to blame the victims. As I said in a comment to Doug’s post, this isn’t about this individual shooting. 999 times out of 1,000, this is going to be the reaction students would have to a shooting. And that’s the problem. This isn’t about individual students and their actions; it’s about a culture that utterly failed to prepare them for the possibility of violence and evil.

That said, it might be instructive to go back and refresh your memory with some of the very basic easily taught defense tactics that I lay out in my post here so you can consider how they might have been applied in these situations if the students had been prepared and how that might have changed things.

It appears that in most cases, when the gunman was shooting a classroom, he entered the room and moved methodically around the room, confronting people face to face at short range, as close as three feet (in all of the following block quotes, emphasis is mine):

The first shot hit Librescu in the head, killing him. Webster ducked to the floor and tucked himself into a ball. He shut his eyes and listened as the gunman walked to the back of the classroom. Two other students were huddled by the wall. He shot a girl, and she cried out. Now the shooter was three feet away, pointing his gun right at Webster.

“I felt something hit my head, but I was still conscious,” Webster recalled. The bullet had grazed his hairline, then ricocheted through his upper right arm. He played dead. “I lay there and let him think he had done his job. I wasn’t moving at all, hoping he wouldn’t come back.” The gunman left the room as suddenly as he had come in.

In some of the rooms, it seems that the gunman actually circled around again shooting the wounded:

Violand, feeling panicky, pointed at her and said, “Put that desk in front of the door, now!” She did, and then someone called 911. The desk could not hold back the push from outside. The first thing Violand saw was a gun, then the gunman. “I quickly dove under a desk,” he recalled. “That was the desk I chose to die under.”

He listened as the gunman began “methodically and calmly” shooting people. “It sounded rhythmic-like. He took his time between each shot and kept up the pace, moving from person to person.” After every shot, Violand thought, “Okay, the next one is me.” But shot after shot, and he felt nothing. He played dead.

“The room was silent except for the haunting sound of moans, some quiet crying, and someone muttering: ‘It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. They will be here soon,’ ” he recalled. The gunman circled again and seemed to be unloading a second round into the wounded. Violand thought he heard the gunman reload three times. He could not hold back odd thoughts: “I wonder what a gun wound feels like. I hope it doesn’t hurt. I wonder if I’ll die slow or fast.” He made eye contact with a girl, also still alive. They stared at each other until the gunman left.

It all comes down to reaction time:

In Jamie Bishop’s German class, they could hear the popping sounds. What was that? Some kind of joke? Construction noises? More pops. Someone suggested that Bishop should place something in front of the classroom door, just in case. The words were no sooner uttered than the door opened and a shooter stepped in. He was holding guns in both hands. Bishop was hit first, a bullet slicing into the side of his head. All the students saw it, an unbelievable horror. The gunman had a serious but calm look on his face. Almost no expression. He stood in the front and kept firing, barely moving. People scrambled out of the line of fire. Trey Perkins knocked over a couple of desks and tried to take cover. No way I can survive this, he thought. His mind raced to his mother and what she would go through when she heard he was dead. Shouts, cries, sobs, more shots, maybe 30 in all. Someone threw up. There was blood everywhere. It took about a minute and a half, and then the gunman left the room.

There were some that ran to the sound of guns, but their actions were the exception rather than the rule:

Kevin Granata had heard the commotion in his third-floor office and ran downstairs. He was a military veteran, very protective of his students. He was gunned down trying to confront the shooter.

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One student, Zach Petkowicz, was near the lectern “cowering behind it,” he would later say, when he realized that the door was vulnerable. There was a heavy rectangular table in the class, and he and two other students pushed it against the door. No sooner had they fixed it in place than someone pushed hard from the outside. It was the gunman. He forced it open about six inches, but no farther. Petkowicz and his classmates pushed back, not letting up. The gunman fired two shots through the door. One hit the lectern and sent wood scraps and metal flying. Neither hit any of the students. They could hear a clip dropping, the distinct, awful sound of reloading. And, again, the gunman moved on.

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Room 204, Professor Librescu’s class, seems to have been the gunman’s last stop on the second floor. The teacher and his dozen students had heard too much, though they had not seen anything yet. They had heard a girl’s piercing scream in the hallway. They had heard the pops and more pops. By the time the gunman reached the room, many of the students were on the window ledge. There was grass below, not concrete, and even some shrubs. The old professor was at the door, which would not lock, pushing against it, when the gunman pushed from the other side. Some of the students jumped, others prepared to jump until Librescu could hold the door no longer and the gunman forced his way inside.

Of course, one has to ask: why was a brave old Holocaust survivor left to hold the door by himself? Why did only one person even attempt to confront the shooter? I think we know the answer to that.

h/t: The CDR.

In Defense of Self-Defense, part II

This started as a comment in response to Stephen’s post, but I decided it was big enough to warrant its own post. In the comment section to the afore mentioned post, there’s a discussion going on about exactly what, if anything, the VT students could have done to act in their own self defense.

First, I’d like to say that I feel that Stephen is right on about being bombarded with anti self-defense messages, ranging from being taught to “turn the other cheek” in preschool to the advice we get from law enforcement to simply give muggers and carjackers whatever they want. A lot of people in this country lack the capacity for any kind of violence, even in self defense.

That said, here’s a few thoughts I have on the matter…

The first thing is that the shock factor is the biggest one thing to overcome in a situation like this. The only way to overcome that is to think about it ahead of time. Run through scenarios in your head, always be prepared to take action…sort of what I described here.

As for options, I’ll simply discuss non-carrying options, because I think introducing a carrying student into the scenario simplifies things considerably. In any case, I was thinking about this in my night class tonight. It takes place in a relatively small classroom (20-30 people) in an engineering building with long straight hallways.

First, a caveat…the following makes the assumption that it would be, at most, one or two people acting at once. The likelihood of several people taking action is, at this point in time, highly unlikely due to the culture of non-violence that Stephen discussed.

If all the gunman does is stick his head in a room, shoots through one or two magazines, and then leaves, your only realistic option would be to wait for a mag change and then be prepared to close the distance between you and him quickly, preferebly throwing stuff, making noise, trying to appear as aggressive as possible. However, as tarran points out, if he is managing his ammunition and mag changes appropriately, the opportunity for this would be so slim as to be impossible.

If he does enter the classroom, your options improve slightly, as it gives you more angles at which to approach the gunman and a shorter distance to cover. However, the advantage is still definitely with the shooter.

The only way the advantage lies with the unarmed student(s) is if you are alert enough to realize that a shooting is going on prior to the gunman entering the room and you barricade the door. If the gunman does somehow manage to get through the barricade, 2-3 people (at least) should be waiting beside the door ready to jump him when he comes through. In this case the unarmed students have both surprise and numbers on their side.

Now, if we move out of a classroom and into a lecture hall, but still assume a very small number of people will be reacting offensively to the shooting (2 or 3 at most), the options improve slightly again for the unarmed student(s) but are still not good. Once the shooting starts most people will engage their flight response. You can use that to your advantage by staying with the crowd as long as possible before breaking out to attack the shooter. Once you break out, the above stated actions such as throwing objects, yelling, and appearing as aggressive as possible still apply.

The above discussion was all based on the premise that, at most, 2 or 3 people would be reacting aggressively to counter the gunman. This is pretty realistic given the culture of anti self-defense that Stephen discussed in his post. However, what if we were able to change that culture? Would things be any different?

Most definitely. First, we would be a lot more accepting of common sense defense measures to violence such as this. Schools have fire alarm systems, but God forbid we allow armed guards into the school or armed students onto the campus. We have fire drills, why not have intruder drills that actually involve pro-active action instead of turning off the ligths and hiding under desks waiting for someone else to take care of the problem? As Stephen says, establish the mentality that almost anything can be used as a weapon. Teach that if the entire class begins throwing things and charges the shooter, he can’t get you all and in fact is probably going to react with some surprise and alarm to actually see a large group of people fighting back. Most importantly, make people face the fact that, like fire, violence happens. Simply pretending it doesn’t exist is a recipe for disaster. If we get people to face that one fact, it would do more for decreasing crime and increasing overall safety in this country than increasing our police forces ten fold. If a gunman was able to get through our increased precautionary measures, he would face a much more menacing pack instead of a herd.

You’ll notice I left one scenario out of my discussion. I didn’t discuss if/how someone could chase down and ambush the shooter after he has left the immediate area. The reason is that the chances of anyone doing this unarmed are extremely slim. It would take a true sheepdog to undertake action of that magnitude. The likelihood of such an action succeeding is dependent on a lot of things, several of them intangibles, and has moved from simple self-defense to offensive assault. I’d like to say I’d be able to do such a thing, but I don’t think anyone can say until they’re put into that situation.

All we can do is prepare ourselves physically and mentally and hope we never have to face that moment of truth, but be prepared to do so in an instant.

Seven Years for Shoving?

That’s the sentence 14 year old Shaquanda Cotton received in Paris, TX after shoving a hall monitor in a dispute. Now, while readers of this site certainly would be interested in such an apparent miscarriage of justice, I don’t think it’s too much to say that this wouldn’t get much play in the national media unless there was another angle.

Shaquanda Cotton is black. Another 14 year old girl in the same town received a sentence of probation from the same judge after burning down her family’s home. The other girl is white. It would seem the charge of racism is fairly easy to make in this case. That’s certainly the angle this Trib article takes:

And then there is the case that most troubles Cherry and leaders of the Texas NAACP, involving a 14-year-old black freshman, Shaquanda Cotton, who shoved a hall monitor at Paris High School in a dispute over entering the building before the school day had officially begun.

The youth had no prior arrest record, and the hall monitor–a 58-year-old teacher’s aide–was not seriously injured. But Shaquanda was tried in March 2006 in the town’s juvenile court, convicted of “assault on a public servant” and sentenced by Lamar County Judge Chuck Superville to prison for up to 7 years, until she turns 21.

Just three months earlier, Superville sentenced a 14-year-old white girl, convicted of arson for burning down her family’s house, to probation.

“All Shaquanda did was grab somebody and she will be in jail for 5 or 6 years?” said Gary Bledsoe, an Austin attorney who is president of the state NAACP branch. “It’s like they are sending a signal to black folks in Paris that you stay in your place in this community, in the shadows, intimidated.”

However, as in most cases of this nature, things are not so neatly cut and dried. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes in this one, and this article from the local paper that focuses on the Judge and his decision ties a lot of that together. Money quotes:

County Judge Chuck Superville says he fears for the community’s safety and is calling for the national media and other organizations to investigate the facts before drawing conclusions about the Shaquanda Cotton case.

The judge said a March 12 story in The Chicago Tribune unfairly painted the community as racist and a recent protest as well as the threat of future protests by organized groups with national media coverage could “spin this thing out of control.”

Superville said he has refrained from commenting until now because of his position as the judge in the Cotton case, but that he believes he has a higher duty as county judge to maintain order in the community.

“I call on the media and others involved to go to the public record to get the facts of the case before they rush to judgment,” Superville said Saturday.

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“If Shaquanda had been white, the outcome would have been the same,” Superville said. “My decision was based on facts and law and I am confident this was the correct decision based on the facts I was presented.”

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Superville said he gave the 14-year old an indeterminate sentence up to seven years — her 21st birthday.

“Once I set the indeterminate sentence, Shaquanda holds the key to her jail cell,” Superville said. “It is up to the child and TYC.”

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“The juvenile officer said the mother refused to cooperate and said he had no reason to believe the mother would cooperate if Shaquanda received probation,” Superville said.

“That theme was repeated witness after witness—that the mother made it impossible to help Shaquanda,” Superville said. “She blamed everyone except the child for misbehavior.”

So we have a mother that refuses to hold her child accountable and, if I may indulge in a stereotype, appears to be playing the “angry black woman” card. We have the national media and organizations like the NAACP getting ahold of the story and turning it into a federal case. We have a town with apparent race issues. But none of that matters. At the end of the day, we have a now 15 year old girl who will quite possibly be in jail until her 21st birthday because everyone failed her. The system, her community, and her family. How is Shaquanda doing now? From the Trib story:

Inside the youth prison in Brownwood where she has been incarcerated for the past 10 months–a prison currently at the center of a state scandal involving a guard who allegedly sexually abused teenage inmates–Shaquanda, who is now 15, says she has not been doing well.

Three times she has tried to injure herself, first by scratching her face, then by cutting her arm. The last time, she said, she copied a method she saw another young inmate try, knotting a sweater around her neck and yanking it tight so she couldn’t breathe. The guards noticed her sprawled inside her cell before it was too late.

She tried to harm herself, Shaquanda said, out of depression, desperation and fear of the hardened young thieves, robbers, sex offenders and parole violators all around her whom she must try to avoid each day.

“I get paranoid when I get around some of these girls,” Shaquanda said. “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t do this no more–that I can’t survive this.”

Shaquanda needs someone to give her the help she’s not received from the places I listed above. Somehow I doubt playing the race card and turning this into a national Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton media spectacle is going to get her that. On top of that, a system that allows a 14 year old with no prior record to be sentenced to 7 years in prison for shoving is seriously broken, regardless of race.

A lot of stuff is wrong in this case, and it doesn’t appear that any of it is going to get better anytime soon.

h/t: Chap. More here, including some good thoughts about the failure of the community to help Shaquanda.

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